Ref! On potential glory

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

Another week, another option on the England front. Yes, Baz, Marcus Rashford. And bloody Wayne Rooney. Rashford? I think Hodgson will take him and hang onto him in case of emergencies. He’s not going to disturb the new twin kings, is he?  Kane and Vardy, separately or together, one or the other, either or both, that’s what we have to have in my humble opinion. Trust in the future.

The present, indeed, Dave, they’ve both done it in the Premier League and look comfortable at international level, so it’s no gamble to pin your hopes on them. What we don’t want is Roy going soft and playing Rooney through the middle with one or both of them on the flanks. Okay, the old boy scored a good one against Australia and looked  like the experienced campaigner he is. But it’s a new dawn and if anyone is going to standing back, letting the other boys play, it’s got to be him.

You’re right, Dave, it does get me agitated. And there’s nothing you or I can do about it, but it’s what being a fan is all about. We’re interested, we have  a certain amount of knowledge and we want to see the boss do the right thing. And the right thing right now is to give it to the youth. All of a sudden they’re queueing up, whereas some years there’s nobody knocking on the door. But you’ve got all the Spurs boys looking the part – all except Kyle Walker, Dave, I agree. He should be the reserve and we play Nathanial Clyne as first choice right back.

Cheers, Gary, I feel like a spirit. Some “fancy foreign muck”, as Baz would say. Well, you did, Baz, in that Italian restaurant where they had Juventus on the telly in the corner. What did we have that night? Grappa, that’s right. Like brandy strained through an old sock. I’ll have one of them, Gary. If they’ve got it, yes. Otherwise, whatever’s the dustiest on the top shelf.

My prediction? Too early to predict the tournament, but this time I reckon we’ll win the group at least. Well, no, that’s a lot bolder than I was two years ago with the World Cup, when I didn’t even think we’d get out of the group. And I was right, wasn’t I? We were rubbish. All changed now. All we need is for the centre backs to get their act together, and one good game could do that. Stones gets his confidence back and Roy gets either Cahill or Smalling going as the cool head, the voice of experience.

Joe Hart at the back. Somebody suddenly grows up and starts running the midfield – not Milner. I don’t know who, no, but there’s plenty of them there or thereabouts. You can’t predict, you can only hope. But I don’t know: I’ve just got a good feeling about this. And if the best team should win the tournament and we’re not that yet, well, we can grow into it. That’s what Hodgson’s good at. He picked Vardy when everybody thought he was just a flash in the pan, he’s made Kane feel like he owns the shirt – in a good way. I don’t know. I haven’t been this excited since 1990. In a football sense, Dave. For gawd’s sake don’t tell Jody I said that.

Cheers Gary. Down the hatch. Wallop! Yeah, grappa. Fancy foreign muck. Doesn’t half repeat on you too.

 

 

Ref! On Euro hopes and dreams

The candid thoughts of former Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads,

England, Russia, Slovenia, Wales. Who’s going to win the Euros? England, Baz? Is that a considered answer or purely based on sentiment? Yes, of course I want England to win it, but only if they’re the best team. And are they? We’ve seen it all before, haven’t we? Excellent record in qualifying but when it comes to the real thing, we find that the world has moved on and while we’ve been admiring the development of  one or two promising players, other people have produced superstars.

So what have we got, Dave? Potential gold upfront, I agree. Gone are the days of hoping someone like Danny Welbeck can rise to the occasion and score at international level when he doesn’t do much for his club.

But Kane or Vardy? Both? I would like to agree with you, mate, but at the moment I reckon we’re in either/or territory. Because they haven’t really played together much, and even if Roy Hodgson does play them as a pair rather than having one out wide, it remains to be seen if they can accept being co-stars rather than undisputed kings, which is what they are at their clubs.

If you look back through history at the great strike partnerships, it hasn’t been like that. Lineker and Beardsley? That was very much Lineker as the hit man and Beardsley buzzing around creating chances. Alan Shearer? Whoever played with him was always going to be second fiddle. Go right back to the year of our Lord  1966 and in the final it was Geoff Hurst and Roger Hunt but I sometimes struggle to remember Hunt was even there. And if Jimmy Greaves been fit in earlier matches, you’d have had him up there, and there was a lone wolf if ever there was one.

Cheers Gary. Get us a Campari and orange juice, will you? Because it’s what I fancy, that’s why.

Midfield, lads? Full of promise but not too much proven experience. I agree, Baz, I like Ross Barkley, but he’s got to stamp his authority on the squad. Dele Alli’s on a wave of youthful enthusiasm and confidence, so let’s hope that bubble doesn’t burst. Other than them you’ve got Fabian Delph, who’s shellshocked after Villa’s nightmare. Lallana, Drinkwater, Henderson, Dier. Where’s the commanding influence, the guy who takes over when the going gets tough? Yes, I suppose that was an illusion much of the time, but at least with Lampard and Gerrard and Beckham you felt it was a possibility.Maybe Jack Wilshere, yes, it’s like pre-season for him so at least he’s going to be fresh.  Where’s Bryan Robson when you need him?

And at the back, well, unconvincing is the word that springs to mind, don’t you think?

I wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea replaced Gary Cahill this summer, and yet he’s the captain of England. In the absence of Rooney, yes, and there’s the key. I know I’ve been vocal in my wish for Rooney to quietly fade away, but that was from the strikers. If he can play deeper, which he’s been doing lately, then fine, and he has the experience, which we need.

Also at the back, John Stones needs to rediscover his composure and the full backs, well, they don’t have to be world-beaters, just solid. Disciplined. Leave the fancy stuff to others.

And as the boss said in Mike Bassett: England Manager, we’re going to play four four f***ing two.

Cheers, Gary. Let’s enjoy it while we can, eh?

 

 

 

 

Ref! On making decisions and being dissed

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads. Did I watch Leicester-West Ham? As it happens, yes, and I suppose you’re going to ask me about the refereeing, aren’t you? Did it make me regret retiring, Dave? Did it hell, mate. You don’t go into refereeing to be the centre of attention. The matches a ref enjoys are the ones everybody else enjoys. Good football, sportsmanship The kind of games where you’re only there to rubber-stamp what is obvious to everybody.

I won’t talk about specifics, Baz, no. It was the guy’s general performance that upset people. But to be fair, I don’t know if there has ever been a match where the neutrals were so partisan, if you get my drift. I mean everyone wanted Leicester to win, even some West Ham fans did. It’s the triumph of the little guy, isn’t it? David versus Goliath. Not West Ham as Goliath, no, but Leicester against the big boys. If they hadn’t been doing so well this season we’d have been rooting for the Hammers, because it’s good to see them up there too.

But everybody wants Leicester to wrap it up as soon as possible. And even though the ref yesterday was neutral in that he doesn’t come from Leicester or support them, he’ll have a soft spot for them on the quiet.

He did make some strange decisions as regards penalties and you’re right, it did look like he felt he owed them one at the end when they were about to lose because of his dubious decisions earlier on. But did that affect his thinking? We will never know. You have a split second to call it, that’s all. It’s not like in cricket where some umpires give it a few seconds before deciding out or not out. If a football ref did that he’d be accused of weighing it up in more ways than one. I football it’s bang, this is my decision and it’s final.

Cheers, Gary, I don’t know what I want to drink, to be honest. Give me a moment. No, just joking, I’ll have a pint of good old honest-to-God lager, mate. Carlsberg.

Of course, when you think about it, there is something to be said for giving the injured party a break if you know you screwed up earlier and it’s going to cost them, but you can’t do it. You have to make every decision on its own merits. Penalty or no penalty, simple as that.

People were asking for it in that game, though. Huth and Morgan grabbing people in the box, impeding them. It’s the thing that brasses me off most in the whole game, as it happens. That and diving, and there was a bit of that going on too. I tell you what, there’s an ugly picture in the media of Jamie Vardy pointing his finger at the ref when he’s just been sent off and it’s the kind of thing that makes you think if you could send him off twice you’d do it. Never mind reporting it afterwards and letting the authorities deal with it. A ref’s only human, and nobody likes to be dissed in that way. Dissed, Dave. Disrespected. It’s an expression Jody uses, yes. She gets it from the kids she teaches at school.

Dissed. I like it. It makes you sound less like a victim and more like a righteous dude. Don’t diss me, man. But a ref doesn’t have that luxury. He’s just got to take it and know he’s in the right. Dissed off though he might be.

 

 

Ref! On England, Germany and the new dawn

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

Evening lads. Yes, of course, only one subject for us tonight: the glory that is England. As you say, Baz, it’s always good to beat the bloody Germans, and I’m sure we mean that in a non-xenophobic way. It’s not because they’re German, it’s because their team is called Germany and they have this irritating habit of doing well at football. But now and again we get ‘em, don’t we?

Yes, it did all look very predictable in the first half and the start of the second until we got going, but look at their side and look at ours. They had established stars like Ozil and Toni Kroos and Thomas Müller. Your wife is quite right, Dave. Müller does have a face you want to slap and it is to an extent beside the point but at the same time he got it metaphorically slapped in the end.

So Hodgson picks a team that’s about right in my opinion, full of emerging talents. Funny how that makes last year’s emerging talents look like underachievers, though, isn’t it? Ross Barkley has now been upgraded to experienced international but he’s in danger of missing the boat. Dele Alli’s looking more like it. Yes, Dave, Adam Lallana is becoming the new James Milner because he’s Hodgson’s representative now, his trusted lieutenant. The old man likes him and knows he’ll give 100%, even if it’s not often going to light up the stadium.

We’ve spoken before about the Rooney conundrum, and it does seem unfair that we’re all slamming the door behind us and leaning on it so he can’t get back in when he’s fit again, but Hodgson will have him in the squad in the summer and unless the youngsters really perform, he’ll be getting picked for crucial games, won’t he?

Cheers, Gary, why don’t we all chip in for a bottle of that Spanish sparkling wine by way of celebration? Bobby’ll give you a discount I’m sure. It’s not really champagne, so we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves, but we can toast the future.

In a way it’s a complication as much as a blessing that both Kane and Vardy are credible candidates for the central striker role, but for me, Kane’s in the driving seat and if Vardy can be happy coming off the bench to win games, so much the better. Trouble is, managers who can’t make up their minds have a habit of playing the second choice guy out of position just so he’s there on the off chance, so on Saturday you had Danny Welbeck hanging around looking for scraps. He’s another of Hodgson’s prefects, always smartly turned out and never lets the head teacher down.

Yes, at the back it was a bit dodgy and the sooner John Stones gets back to being the messiah the better, cos poor old Gary Cahill is going to be a nearly kind of guy. He just hasn’t got the presence, the authority, that a man with his experience needs. Very nice guy apparently, but strikers across Europe are not waking up in the middle of the night screaming “Nein! Nein! Bloody Gary Cahill!” or however you swear in German.

Butland, yes, learned a lesson the hard way. What would you have done in his position, Dave? Come off sobbing at the first tweak or tried to run it off like he did? It’s a man’s game, even the women’s version.

 

 

Ref! The referee’s fear of the penalty

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

No, that’s okay, Dave, just because I’ve retired doesn’t mean I can’t answer refereeing questions. What do you want to know?

The Benteke penalty at the end of the Palace-Liverpool game. Well I’m glad you asked me that, as it happens, because there are two points to talk about there. Three, really.

Did I think it was a penalty? Irrelevant, mate. The guy in charge thought it was, gave it and that’s that. I know it’s the only way Christian Benteke is going to get a goal at the moment because he’s having a tough time, but I don’t think that will have entered his thoughts at that moment. Not enough time, for one thing.

And no amount of TV replays would have cleared that one up, because the guy did touch him, and you’ve got questions like who was off-balance and all that. You just don’t know, Baz. Just like I don’t know what goes on in that big, bearded mind of yours when I see you clattering some poor sod on a Sunday morning.

Whether a striker has a predisposition, if you like, to going down in the box, we will never know. I don’t think even they know, and of course they’re all different. There are those who say you should stay on your feet if you possibly can, but they’re only human and if they’ve been kicked and held and jostled for 90 minutes there might be some little spark in their brain when the defender comes in again that says, “Right, I’ve had enough of this, you touched me and I’m going down.”

And talking of 90 minutes, that one did happen late on and Alan Pardew [Crystal Palace manager] said he doubted whether Palace would have got a penalty if it had been the other way round. Now that is offensive towards officials. You try your best to be impartial, of course you do. Plus, Palace were at home, after all, so there wasn’t even that much pressure from the crowd. Yes, it can be intimidating when you know 50,000 supporters are looking at you with malice in their hearts, but that wasn’t the case, was it? It was at Selhurst Park, so what pressure there was was from Palace fans wanting him to not give a penalty.

Cheers, Gary. I’ll have a brown and mild, mate. Yeah, bit of a throwback. My Dad used to drink it, and he was a Palace fan.

It was a young defender, was it? Yes, I know, now you mention it. But I don’t think age is a factor. Any defender would have had a go in that situation because if you don’t, you’re not doing your job. Right, Baz? Right, have a go and hope for the best. You don’t chop him down like a lumberjack, you go for the ball and if you get a touch of leg or boot or something, it’s like a surgeon accidentally nicking the gall bladder when he’s got his scalpel in that area while he’s doing something else.

Not that centre backs are like surgeons, I agree, Dave. More like butchers – no offence, Baz – with the exception of the skilled ones, your Des Walkers and Colin Todds and maybe John Stoneses. Marcel Desailly, yes. You, Baz, you’re in the classic mould. You’re Jack Charlton, Big Dave Watson, Tony Adams, or Robert Huth in the modern game. You’re a colossus, a giant, lumbering colossus – and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cheers, Gary, thank God you’re back. Give him his Guinness, for gawd’s sake.

 

 

 

 

Ref! On the mediocrity of England

The candid thoughts of Premier League referee Colin Preece, as recorded by our eavesdropping mole in the Duck and Peasant.

 Referee

I know what you mean, Dave, England get to play a decent side after a dozen piece-of-cake games in the Euro qualifiers, and to nobody’s surprise we’re not as good as it looked on paper.

People are talking about Hodgson not having great resources to draw on, but I don’t know. I reckon he’s got the skeleton of a decent side, but what it lacks at the moment is authority.

Joe Hart, yes, Gary, the best keeper we’ve had since David Seaman. He’s not in the Peter Shilton league, but after the series of farces since Seaman, you look at him with a bit of confidence, don’t you? I’ll always be grateful to Fabio Capello for… hear me out, Baz… for.. yes, I know he was. I couldn’t agree more, but when we had that run when whoever we put in goal would have a nightmare, he kept Hart out of it. He was just emerging at the time but Capello protected him and sacrificed the likes of Rob Green instead. So Hart got his international career going after the storm had passed.

At right back, Dave, yes, Nathaniel Clyne looks the part, although again we haven’t seen him up against anybody really good and it was Kyle Walker against Spain. Ryan Bertrand on the left, did okay. Best thing he did was leave Chelsea, and he might only be keeping the spot warm for Luke Shaw, but he did well. Yes, exactly, whatever happened to Leighton Baines? He squeezed Ashley Cole out and then ran out of steam. Maybe he lacks ambition, the killer instinct.

Cheers Gary, pint of cider please. I don’t mind, whatever they’ve got. I just feel a bit rustic.

No, rustic, Baz, sort of countrified. I’m not rusty, it’s not even a week since my last game, and I do train, you know. Yes, referees train, of course they do. Hardest working man on the pitch, so we’ve got to stay fit.

Centre back, now there, Dave, as you rightly point out, we have a pool of possibilities. You can call it a pool of talent if you like. I’d call it a pool of mediocrity. Where’s the Sol Campbell, the JT, the Rio, the man of standing? Smalling, Cahill, Jagielka, Jones, they’re all able lieutenants… deputies, Baz… but they don’t stand like a rock in front of our goal. John Stones, yes, everybody hopes so, but we shall see.

Midfield, again, lots of people chasing around, and Ross Barkley’s got a spark, but who’s running the show a la Bryan Robson? Nobody. Inexperienced.

And up front, Harry Kane – fair enough. Sterling looks good in flashes but gives it away too much. It’s a work in progress, lads. And not really our problem. You get on with building extensions and I’ll referee football matches. And Roy Hodgson drinks from the poisoned chalice – which, before you ask, Baz, is a metaphor. A metaphor: an image that symbolizes what you’re talking about because it’s a similar… anybody fancy a game of dominoes?

 

Well, come on, lads. I don’t know what it is, but something’s going on. Abramovich hasn’t sacked him yet, but why not? To make him suffer? I’m the last to want to start rumours, but you’ve got to wonder, haven’t you?